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Studios slow openers pace

'Closer', 'Daggers', 'David' the only new releases

As studios take an early December breather from their furious fall release pace, Sony opens helmer Mike Nichols’ “Closer” on 476 screens this weekend.

Only other new releases for the frame are Lions Gate’s Jim Caviezel starrer “I Am David,” which unspools on 226 screens, and Sony Pictures Classics’ martial-arts love story “The House of Flying Daggers,” which bows on 15 screens in L.A. and Gotham.

Though “Closer,” an adaptation of Patrick Marber’s play, features a big-name cast including Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, Sony is using a limited release strategy on the pic.

Pic will expand by about 150 theaters next week and then play at around 1,000 at its widest point of release set for Dec. 17.

Calling the pic a “refreshingly adult film,” Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said the slower strategy is “the right way to go with this picture.”

Disney’s “National Treasure” could rule the roost for a third straight week. After a strong Thanksgiving for the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced pic, adventure story has been leading in midweek results, earning more than $1.5 million a day.

For the first time, it looks like Warner Bros.’ “The Polar Express” has a good shot of outgrossing toon rival “The Incredibles” from Disney and Pixar. In midweek shows, “Polar” has been taking in around $900,000 a day, while “Incredibles” has had a daily take in the vicinity of $600,000.

Traditionally, the first week of December is a slow one at the wickets, as studios assume people are too busy with holiday shopping and office parties to attend theaters, and total box office tends to sink more than 40% off Thanksgiving weekend.

So studios tend not to release their strongest product over the frame. Even last year when Warners’ opened Tom Cruise starrer “The Last Samurai” on Dec. 5 to $24 million, the marketplace still sank 40% off the previous holiday frame.

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